Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bit of a Stroll

Since Caroline’s death I’ve stopped drinking alcohol because my head just hasn’t been in the right place for that, stopped smoking after a brief venture back into it while she was dying, and I started walking. The reason for this last is twofold. In the past I have been prone to depression and know that exercise is the best cure and, if ever there was a time for depression to get hold of me, it’s now. Also, for many years I’ve wanted to lose some weight, so I’m walking and dieting. I guess the psychology of it is that I’m controlling something I can control and fighting a battle I can win. I’ll now intersperse this with some pictures from one of the last walks I took. 

Head out from Latchingdon ...

past what used to be the Wagon and Horses pub. 
A common sight in Essex is the house that 'used to be a pub'.

As far as the dieting is concerned I’ve cut out potatoes, bread, pasta, rice … basically high or complex carbs. In fact, since I’m now living alone, I got all that stuff out of the house so I have little choice in the matter. I’m now eating one meal a day of veg like cabbage, courgettes or peas along with some meat or fish. Sometimes I’ll eat some more in the evening: fruit, canned fish or nuts.

Turn right down the permanently dank Rectory Lane ...

to the end where someone is converting a water tower into a house, 
and seems to have got no further than this over 2 years. Turn left...

I started off with a walk Caroline and I did together, though in reverse and with some variation to the route. This was basically a circuit in Maldon that included the side of the river and the promenade. I then bought a pedometer or, rather, I bought some cheap pedometers off ebay then discovering how crap they were gave them to a charity shop and got something better: an Omron GoSmart pedometer. I also learned that 10,000 paces a day is what I should be aiming for, and began extending that walk. I’m now somewhere in the region of 15,000 paces.

along Lower Burnham Road overlooking the Crouch until reaching ...

the war memorial. Turn right.

I went from a 2 mile walk a day to 4 miles, then 5 and finally to where I am now at 7+ miles a day. I extended the walk around Maldon to take me round the ring road to the other side, then back, and then along the river and the prom again. However, one thing has perpetually annoyed me about walking around Maldon: I have to drive to get there.

Tramp down to Althorne Station. Manage to get across the level crossing without being squashed because, y'know, trains don't tend to swerve in unexpected directions.  

Finally reach the River Crouch and turn left at the marina. 

Take in the briny air and observe the mud.

I next used Google Earth to plot some circuits from my house in Latchingdon and these came in at 5, 6 and 7+ miles. The problem with this part of Essex is that pavement runs out once you get beyond the bounds of a village. I could have tried some of the local footpaths but, as you know, it has been very wet and I would probably have come back with a few pounds of Essex clay on each shoe. As for walking beside the roads … well you can usually find a verge to walk on or beside and, if you listen and keep your eyes open, it’s easy enough to step out of the way.

Tramp uphill from the sea wall back to 

the boring roads.

I’ve done a number of circuits now (it’s working out at about 50 miles a week) but have now settled on one that takes me down to the river Crouch, along that for a little way, then back up and home by road. It’s about 7.5 miles and the pictures of that walk are what you are seeing here. Maybe these aren’t for British people but, the internet is worldwide so others might be interested… 

Go past what used to be the Black Lion where Caroline worked behind the bar in the days when I first met her - another 'used to be a pub' house - then back by...

dodgy roads where white van man tries to clip you with his wing mirror.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Skyhorse Covers

Here are the full covers of the US versions of Polity Agent and Jupiter War that Skyhorse should have sent to the printer by now:


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jupiter War - Publishers Weekly Review

This just in from Skyhorse Publishing. I haven't seen the full review but there's an excerpt below.

This dizzying and unusually thoughtful space opera, which concludes the trilogy begun in The Departure and Zero Point, shows the tyrannical forces of Earth trying to stop a lone genius from fleeing the solar system. Serene Galahad, Earth’s psychotic dictator, is willing to kill most of the “human scum” and genetically alter the rest in order to mend the damage of overpopulation. Alan Saul has been mechanically augmented until he is much more than human, and he now questions whether preserving the humans aboard his stolen space station is worth the bother. These two very clever opponents, armed with mind-stretching super technology, feint and parry as they struggle for supremacy. Mordant commentary interspersed throughout the action reminds readers to observe how the different definitions of “humanity” influence the conflict and the question of who—if anyone—is in the right. The result is a challenging, extremely satisfying read.(May)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jupiter War Paperback

Bella Pagan at Macmillan informs me that Jupiter War is out in paperback on the 10th of April. Copies have arrived there even now and very pretty they look too.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Full of Illusions

On June 3rd of last year there was only this post that might have given anyone a hint that something was wrong:

Well, how odd that my last post concerned health systems. So, without going into personal detail, what do you think of the likelihood of this happening on the NHS: getting to see a doctor, without appointment, in quarter of an hour; less than an hour later getting blood and urine taken for testing at a microbiology lab; then an ultrasound scan shortly after that, but only when your bladder is full enough – being sent away by the technician to drink beer and water; then being sent by the technician to a specialist doctor for further check-ups and another scan (though having to wait for half an hour because the doctor was busy); and the next day – at midday – getting an MRI scan; and, in every case, being greeted by the professional concerned with, “Yes, I know who you are.” Actually, I wonder if this would even be possible in England if you went private. Quite a lot of this is to do with numbers of people.

Of course this was about Caroline who, though she felt fine at the time, had noticed some blood appearing where it hadn't since before her (early) menopause. I wrote some more for this blog, but she didn't want me to post stuff about her and, as things steadily went from bad to worse I just didn't write about it any more. Writing is often cathartic. In this case it just wasn't.

But why the title of this blog post? Well, here's one of those unpublished posts from a week after the one above.

June 10th
Well, it’s been a traumatic week, hence the lateness of this blog entry. The hospital stuff I related last Monday concerned Caroline who, it turns out, has a cluster of growths eleven-and-a-half centimetres across in one of her ovaries. The internet being the perfect hunting ground for the hypochondriac, in that it is a place where you can relate any set of symptoms to some lethal malady, we were having fun looking at ovarian cancer. If she had that her chances were not much different to those of my brother Martin i.e. she could survive for five years, with treatment, but it wouldn’t be life. However, there are no growths outside of her ovary, her lymphatic system is showing no signs of anything nasty and it seems that these growths are benign. That being said they have to go.

A number of years ago we would have gone running back to England but now we know better. If we went back it seems likely that months of hospital and doctor visits would ensue, with lengthy waits between each, followed by another lengthy wait for an operation. Screw that – we’re going private here. What else are savings for if not for something like this? The gynaecologist is booking Caroline into a private clinic in Iraklion for an operation within the next ten days. Hopefully a result of that will be that she’ll lose all those twinges and back-aches, and regain her waistline – much to the irritation of many women here who already think she’s far too slim.

We were wrong about the tumours being benign, wrong about the survival time, wrong about staying in Crete for treatment, wrong about the kind of cancer it turned out to be ... in fact it was from this point onwards that our illusions were steadily destroyed - the ground cut from underneath us week after week. But yes, she did lose her large belly after the oophorectomy and hysterectomy she had here in England and, of course, there's nothing quite so slimming as something called cachexia.